United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
ASHLEY R. LOGAN-WILSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
action is before this Court for judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security finding that
Plaintiff Ashley R. Logan-Wilson was not disabled, and, thus,
not entitled to child insurance benefits under Title II of
the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, or supplemental security income
("SSI") under XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434, 1381-1385. For the reasons set forth
below, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.
filed her disability application on April 27, 2011, alleging
disability beginning on September 1, 2002. She claimed
disability based on her learning disability and depression.
Plaintiffs application was initially denied on July 29, 2011,
and Plaintiff requested a hearing. Such a hearing was held on
December 8, 2011, at which Plaintiff, who was represented by
counsel, testified. Delores Gonzales, an impartial vocational
expert, also testified. By decision dated March 6, 2012, the
administrative law judge ("ALJ") determined that
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act.
Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals Council of the
Social Security Administration was denied, and Plaintiff
appealed to this Court.
September 14, 2014, this Court reversed the decision of the
ALJ and remanded the matter, directing the ALJ to reevaluate
the residual functional capacity with respect to Plaintiffs
pace limitation and perform an analysis of listing 12.05(c).
On March 30, 2015, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a
hearing. Ms. Gonzales testified in person, and Richard
Hutchison, Ph.D., an impartial medical expert, testified by
telephone. The ALJ again determined that Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Social Security Act on May 28, 2015. On
June 22, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request
for review of the ALJ's decision. Plaintiff has thus
exhausted all administrative remedies and the ALJ's
decision stands as the final agency action now under review.
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred when (1) she relied upon
assumptions and incorrect findings in determining that
Plaintiff performed substantial gainful activity as a home
health aide; and (2) in her alternative findings, the ALJ
relied upon assumptions and incorrect findings with regard to
Plaintiffs impairments meeting or equaling listing 12.05,
deficits in activities of daily living, residual functional
capacity, and credibility.
Court notes that Plaintiff alleged a substantial number of
statements of undisputed material facts (Doc. 14-2) that were
disputed by the Commissioner (Doc. 19-1). The Court has
reviewed the statements, the responses, and the record, and,
where appropriate, will accept facts as supported by the
court's role on judicial review is to determine whether
the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence
in the record as a whole. Johnson v. Astrue, 628
F.3d 991, 992 (8th Cir. 2009). "Substantial evidence is
that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion." Id. (citations omitted).
The court may not reverse merely because substantial evidence
exists in the record that would support a contrary outcome or
because the court would have decided the case differently.
See Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d 1019, 1022 (8th
determine whether the ALJ's final decision is supported
by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the
administrative record as a whole and to consider:
(1) The findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the
claimant's physical activity and impairment;
(5) The corroboration by third parties of the claimant's
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon prior
hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the
claimant's physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.
Brand v. Sec'y of Dept. of Health, Educ. &
Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir. 1980).
Social Security Act defines as disabled a person who is
"unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which
has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period
of not less than twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A). The impairment must be "of such severity
that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous
work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work." 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner has established a five-step process for
determining whether a person is disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a), 404.1520(a). "If a claimant
fails to meet the criteria at any step in the evaluation of
disability, the process ends and the claimant is determined
to be not disabled." Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d
785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Eichelherger v.
Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th Cir. 2004)). First,
the claimant must not be engaged in "substantial gainful
activity." 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a),
404.1520(a). Second, the claimant must have a "severe
impairment, " defined as "any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits
[claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities." 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(c),
404.1520(c). The severity of mental disorders is determined
by rating the claimant's degree of limitations in four
areas of functioning: activities of daily living; social
functioning; concentration, persistence, or pace; and
episodes of decompensation (the "paragraph B
criteria"). Id. § 404.1520a(c)(3).
"The sequential evaluation process may be terminated at
step two only when the claimant's impairment or
combination of impairments would have no more than a minimal
impact on [his or] her ability to work." Page v.
Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Caviness v. Massanari, 250 F.3d 603, 605 (8th Cir.
the claimant must establish that his or her impairment meets
or equals an impairment listed in the Regulations. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(d), 404.1520(d). If the claimant has one
of, or the medical equivalent of, these impairments, then the
claimant is per se disabled without consideration of the
claimant's age, education, or work history. Id.
considering step four, the ALJ must determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e),
416.920(e). RFC is defined as "the most a claimant can
do despite [his] limitations." Moore v. Astrue,
572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1)). At step four, the ALJ determines whether the
claimant can return to his past relevant work, by comparing
the claimant's RFC with the physical and mental demands
of the claimant's past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1520(f),
416.920(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(f); McCoy v. Astrue, 648
F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2011). If the claimant can still
perform past relevant work, he will not be found to be
disabled; if the claimant cannot, the analysis proceeds to
the next step. Id.
five, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to see if the claimant can
make an adjustment to other work in the national economy. 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant cannot
make an adjustment to other work, then he will be found to be
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v),
Decision of the ALJ (Tr. 389-405)
determined that Plaintiff engaged in substantial gainful
activity ("SGA") from July 2014 through the date of
the decision, May 28, 2015, as a health home aid for her
mother. She concluded that Plaintiff was paid by the State of
Missouri $10 per hour, working 28 hours per week, which
resulted in approximately $1, 120 per month in earnings.
argued that she is allowed special work conditions, which in
turn could not constitute SGA. However, the ALJ found that
the earnings did not qualify as a subsidy by her employer
because (1) there was no evidence that the State of Missouri
received notice of any special request or conditions; (2) the
work activity report completed by Plaintiffs mother showed
that the claimant completed all usual work duties required of
her position without reported accommodations; (3) the record
showed that Plaintiff was occasionally tardy by 15 minutes,
but otherwise had no attendance issues; (4) Plaintiff
reported that she received help from her sister, which was
contradicted by Plaintiffs testimony that her sister moved
out of the house; and (5) Plaintiff was not receiving more
per hour than another person would receive to perform. The
ALJ concluded that "[s]ince there is no accommodation of
pay or reduced work responsibilities; [Plaintiffs] work is
not an accommodated or subsidized position." Tr. 392.
also found that Plaintiffs work was not an unsuccessful work
attempt pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1574 because she was
performing SGA before notice of the decision, which in turn
precluded her from being considered for a trial work period.
Therefore, Plaintiffs earnings were not an exception to SGA
and that she worked at the level of SGA since July 2014.
noted that the record did not show that Plaintiff worked from
April 27, 2011, through June 2014. Therefore, "[i]n an
abundance of caution, " the ALJ continued through the
sequential evaluation as if Plaintiff had not worked at the
SGA level beginning in July 2014 and continuing through the
date of the ALJ's decision.
first determined that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
borderline intellectual functioning/mild mental retardation,
major depressive disorder, and obesity, but that she did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had a moderate
restriction in activities of daily living; moderate
difficulties with concentration, persistence, and pace; and
experienced no episodes of decompensation.
also determined that the evidence failed to establish the
presence of a medically documented history of a chronic
affective disorder of at least two years' duration that
had caused more than a minimal limitation of ability to do
basic work activities. Similarly, with regard to listing
12.05,  the ALJ concluded that the record
fails to support deficits of adaptive functioning, which is a
requirement for listing 12.05.
determined that after careful consideration of the entire
record, Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels, but with the non-exertional limitation of
routine, repetitive tasks involving occasional decisionmaking
and occasional changes in the work setting. The ALJ limited
production quotas to be based on end of workday measurements
only and opined that the Plaintiff was capable of occasional